Putting health and community safety first requires a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions.
Both the stated goals of drug control policies, and the criteria by which such policies are assessed, merit reform. Traditional goals and measures – such as hectares of illicit crops eradicated, amounts of drugs seized, and number of people arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations – have failed to produce positive outcomes. Far more important are goals and measures that focus on reducing both drug- related harms such as fatal overdoses, HIV/ AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases as well as prohibition-related harms such as crime, violence, corruption, human rights violations, environmental degradation, displacement of communities, and the power of criminal organizations. Spending on counterproductive enforcement measures should be ended, while proven prevention, harm reduction and treatment measures are scaled up to meet need.